Leader Spotlight: Mr. Burrell

Mark Burrell, a leader at Sun Valley Magnet School, has ran with SRLA for eight years, inspiring his students and fellow teachers to join him. Thank you Mark for all you do for SRLA students!

Q: Where are you a SRLA leader? How many years have you been with SRLA?
A: I am currently one of the leaders at Sun Valley Magnet School. We currently have a group of four amazing teachers that we consider leaders of our group. I teach introduction to Technology and Engineering. I had taught Math and science for the first 13 years of my teaching career. This will be my 8th year running with Students Run LA.

Q: What is your day job?
A: As a 6th grade teacher I get the opportunity to teach all the 6th grade students at our school the basics of engineering along with computer technology.

Q: What is your favorite training tip, quote, or words of advice that you share with your students?
A: My first year we as a group always started every practice with si se puede. One of the things we try to instill in our students is that SRLA is not so much about the Marathon. SRLA is about the journey leading to the Marathon. We challenge the students to compete against themselves, not against each other. This is going to be the most grueling training many have experienced. We really stress that they sometimes must push through those walls. When you hit that wall and cannot run anymore, find a landmark in the distance and challenge yourself to continue running until you get there. We also try make training as unique as possible. We try to always find a new run on Saturdays. So many of our students never get to see anything but their own neighborhood. We take them to the mountains, parks, beaches, lakes and what many would consider strenuous hiking trails. During Winter Vacation, we have started a tradition where we do an early morning run and then go to the movies and catch the newest Star Wars film, which always is released during Winter Break.

Q: What has been your favorite SRLA event of all time?
A: I have so many favorite events. If I had to pick just one it would be the Friendship Run of 2014. That was the first year we as a group set up a barbeque and cooked after the race. It was amazing seeing the smiles on the students’ faces as the made their way up to the park and smelt the hot dogs cooking! It made everyone forget about how hard those hills can be. A close runner up would be both the Dockweiler 5k, where we stay and play or the Universal 15k’s where we would stick around and walk Universal City Walk.

Q: What is the best thing about SRLA in your opinion?
A: The comradery and friendships you make. I love teaching, but Students Run Los Angeles gives me such a unique opportunity. 20 years from now my students are not going to remember that amazing Math lesson I gave in class no matter how mind blowing it is. Many things I recall as a young student were things that molded who I am now, not all those experiences happened in the classroom. What my students will remember is finishing their first marathon. I get to guide students towards a goal that many have never dreamed of. It’s funny, I can tell them they you are running 26.2 miles and they say OK. But if I tell them that are running from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier, their eyes widen and their reaction changes to a look of shock. That sense of pride and accomplishment each gets when they cross that finish line makes the pain of those 500 miles of training go away. It will be a memory they never forget. I get to start them off on a healthy lifestyle while instilling dedication, perseverance and discipline at the same time.

Q: What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
A: I never considered myself a runner. I was a swimmer. I swam competitively for 13 years. I joined SRLA as a form of punishment because I felt I had quit taking care of myself physically and I knew that if I committed to a marathon I would have to get back into shape somehow or someway.

Q: Do you have a favorite teaching/mentoring moment you’d like to share?
A: My first year I ran with a student who lost 35 pounds during the season. He ran with inserts because his gait was extreme. We would always joke about crying when we finished. We crossed the finish line together and he was so overcome with joy he collapsed sobbing. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I felt so proud of him.

Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: SRLA takes up a lot of time. My wife would say that I belonged to 2 families. I was fortunate to actually get my wife and daughter to run the LA Marathon the past couple of years.

Make a donation in honor of Mr. Burrell today!